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International Day of People with Disabilities: Celebrating Talents and Promoting Inclusion

In 2000, Andrea Nameth, Content Manager for the HRS Service Center Knowledge Base, was in a car accident that resulted in a broken femur, collar bone, radius, pelvic bone, and a bruised brain. The accident left Andrea in the hospital for 29 days and required years of physical therapy to move her from wheelchair, to walker, to cane, to finally walking again without needing an assistive device.

Without warning, Andrea became one of the 1 billion people affected by disability around the world each year. Disability can be visible or invisible. Physical, mental, developmental, sensory or any combination of those factors. A disability is any condition that makes it more difficult for a person to do activities or interact with people in the world around them. It can be acquired at birth or during a person’s lifetime. But either way, disability should never mean being excluded.

For many people, living with a disability has taught them resiliency and problem-solving skills beyond imagination. We, as a society, must look beyond a person’s disability to discover their hidden or even enhanced talents because every person has value to offer. And everyone deserves equal access to live their best lives.

As we commemorate International Day of People with Disabilities, we recognize the value of our global and diverse community and the role that all of our associates play in building Conduent's culture and success. Here are four personal stories from our associates who are living with disabilities.

Andrea’s story:

“Once the doctors gave me the diagnosis, I was bound and determined to prove them wrong.”

After her car accident, Andrea had to get used to not being able to do all the things she used to do — like running five miles a day or swimming laps in the pool. Her stamina and overall energy seemed to take the biggest hit. The most common everyday chores such as doing the laundry became seemingly impossible tasks while Andrea fought to regain her mobility.

But even when being told she may never walk unassisted again, Andrea’s positivity couldn’t be stifled. “My mother always told me I was stubborn and like to buck authority, so once the doctors gave me that diagnosis, I was bound and determined to prove them wrong.”

For laundry, Andrea learned to tie a string around her basket and drag the clothes to the washer if she needed to. Or, perhaps more importantly, that it was ok to ask for help. “I learned a number of problem-solving skills…It taught me resilience…and I learned patience with myself, which translated into patience with other people…and I did learn to ask for help. I think a lot of people need to learn that skill. We all need help from other people at one time or another.”

Refusing to give up, Andrea defied the odds and regained the ability to walk unassisted again. She says she is lucky because not everyone with a disability is able to return to a semblance of normalcy. So, her main lesson is to remember is empathy. “You never know what a person is experiencing at any given time, even if they look perfectly fine…so, treat people with kindness and respect.” 

DeAnna’s story:

"We should ensure that our playgrounds, workplaces, schools and other community outlets are accessible to all.”

DeAnna L. Coleman, Learning and Development Specialist for HRS Service Center, has what she refers to as a “silent” or “unseen” disability, diabetes. Early in her second pregnancy, DeAnna experienced a diabetic coma. She laid helpless, totally aware of her surroundings, but unable to move or speak. She watched her then five-year-old son run around the house unsupervised, terrified of what could happen. It wasn’t until the postman came and noticed the front door ajar that DeAnna was able to get to the hospital.

“I struggled with and still struggle with most of the things I was doing that created the issue of being diabetic. Once at the hospital, the doctor began to explain the consequences of my actions and the adverse effects that I could be exposing my unborn child to and that kind of set a bell off in my head.”

At the time, DeAnna didn’t realize that uncontrolled blood sugar could cause such complications as a stillborn child or increase the chances of her child being born with or developing cerebral palsy – the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and coordination.

“I was taken aback. Diabetes poses a number of problems for anyone living with it. For women who are pregnant, diabetes can damage fetal development…and for babies born with cerebral palsy, it may be a future health concern, but knowledge is power.”

DeAnna now feels like she better understands her condition and its risks and has taken control. She also helps care for a disabled niece that has given her perspective on inclusivity as well as how to best educate others about living with a disability.

 “We should ensure that our playgrounds, workplaces, schools and other community outlets are accessible to all. [Disabled people] should not be denied the same quality of life as someone else…and if you need understanding, ask me. I would be more than happy to talk about it. Open communication about disability is the best way to educate people.”

Andre's story:

"For a person with a disability like me, we feel more nervous every time we apply for a job because of self-doubt and the fear of rejection. Will they accept us? Will they give me a chance? Am I still qualified for the job?"

Andre Rudyard Mallari, a Tier 1 Advisor for one of Conduent's largest clients in the Customer Experience Management space, has muscular dystrophy — a group of muscle
diseases caused by genetic problems that lead to muscle weakness and decreased

Through the early loss of his father and illness of his mother, and while living with the challenges of his disability, Andre attended and graduated college and had several jobs over the years before arriving at Conduent. Soon after, his mother also passed away yet despite all of the challenges and mental hardships he went through, Andre's positivity and drive to succeed and support himself and his family have prevailed.

"For people like me, we may not have a normal body and a normal life but we are also human and deserve to live just like everybody else. It's okay to take time to take care of our mental health and reflect on our emotions. What matters most is how we stand up and redeem ourselves. Challenges in life make us who we are and help us grow."

"That’s why it’s important to give everyone a chance to make this world a better place to live. A chance to finish school and a chance to have a career. A chance that can change someone's life and help them to move forward."

Erik’s story:

“Bottom line: Go by the platinum rule and treat others the way they want to be treated.”  

Erik Russell, Quality Assurance Associate, was born with cerebral palsy. While in the womb, the umbilical cord wrapped around Erik’s neck, preventing oxygen from getting to his brain. As a result, Erik’s posture, movement control and sometimes other aspects of function may be “impaired.” But that doesn’t stop Erik.

As the Global Co-chair of the Disability Impact Group (DIG) at Conduent, Erik has been working to help others at Conduent embrace what is amazing and unique about every individual. “I believe that all individuals have the right to be employed as long as they have the qualifications for a particular job – regardless of any disability they may have.”

Due to another accident, Erik’s vocal cords were severed, but his message is clear: “All of us are human beings with feelings. Bottom line: Go by the platinum rule and treat others the way they want to be treated. Enjoy your journey through life and LIVE LIFE LOUD!”

About International Day of People with Disabilities
International Day of People with Disabilities, backed by the United Nations, is owned by everyone: people, organizations, agencies, charities, places of learning – all of whom have a vital role to play in identifying and addressing discrimination, marginalization, exclusion and inaccessibility that many people living with disabilities face. International Day of People with Disabilities is one day (December 3) on the international calendar, yet it symbolizes the actions we should take every day, in order to create diverse and accepting communities. Learn more.